My hometown, Kitchener, Ontario, has an annual Christmas market over the first weekend of December. Because of the city’s German heritage, they call it a Christkindl Market. You definitely find kitch there, but you also find legitimate handicrafts for sale. I wanted to highlight Peter Gordon, who does woodworking out of his shop in Brampton, Ontario.
The reason why so much is sourced out to China these days is because of cost. If you were to buy anything handmade these days, you’d have to pay a fortune for it simply because the artist also needs to live and would charge an amount commensurate with her years of experience and level of skill. I recently started crocheting quick scrubbies from an interesting yarn that actually scrubs (more on that next week). The materials are cheap (about 20 cents per scrubby), but they still take me about an hour to make. There’s no way I could make a living charging $5 per scrubby (unless my crocheting speed greatly increased and I could at least make three in an hour).
So when my husband and I came across Peter Gordon’s stand at the Christkindl Market, we were stunned: handmade wooden toy vehicles for roughly $3.50 – $35 or so. He also offered a few items that cost more, but everything else generally fell into that price range. We loaded up. The dinky cars we bought, for example, were simple in design, yet the kids loved them. My boys are too young to care about all the details of a random Porsche. They just want cars that they can zip down their race track, and these wooden toy cars fit the bill.
My husband had a chance to drop by Peter’s workshop in Brampton, Ontario. I don’t want to repeat all of the conversation online here, but my husband was really impressed. I believe that part of Peter’s secret is simplicity: as I said, my kids don’t need loads of detail. And the last thing they need is cheap, plastic toys that break easily and land in a landfill. These simple, inexpensive, locally made toys fit the bill.